The title doesn’t give much of a clue about what you’ll see at this exhibition. It’s about the Georgians, yes, and it makes sense that the focus is on the monarchy seeing as it’s produced from the Royal Collection. The main perspective, however, I’d struggle to tell you.
The first room doesn’t make a huge impression despite containing one of my favourite items – a letter from Frederick, Prince of Wales to his son (and future King) from 1749 saying he won’t regret not being King so long as George rules worthily. This I found particularly touching considering the Hanoverian reputation for family feuds. Sentimentality aside, it’s a fairly weak start, suggesting the disparate nature of the exhibition as a whole.
After a vague introduction to the royal family there is a painting of James II and his family, hopeful of regaining the throne. Admittedly it is interesting to contrast this with depictions of the Hanoverians, but the impact would have been far greater had it been placed side by side with just such a painting rather than in a connecting room. It raises the idea of opposition but you first have to pass through a room focused on the royal palaces before the theme is taken up again with an area devoted to the Georgians at war.
I’ve been to a fair few of the Georgian inspired exhibitions in London this year and none of them particularly touched on this issue so I felt my interest piqued. I did learn a fair amount and particularly enjoyed the certificate confirming four spies had infiltrated to Jacobite camp on the eve of the Battle of Culloden, as well as the striking medley drawing by J. F. C. Schilling. Plans of battle don’t often have the power to engage me but I imagine if they do that you’d really enjoy this section.
That the next area deals with Hogarth signifies the unconnectedness that let this exhibition down. The final two rooms were inhabited by a plethora of decorative art and furnishings and although I felt as though I saw some impressive pieces they would likely have been more fully appreciated had they been presented in a more coherent fashion. It wasn’t the grand and impressive art that made it worthwhile being there but the personal touches such as the letters.
With so many excellent exhibitions celebrating the anniversary of the accession of the Hanoverians this one, sadly, would not be at the top of my recommendations.
The First Georgians: Art& Monarchy 1714-1760 is at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace until 12th October, 2014.